Race Across the World’s Cathie and Tricia on sight loss, spare knickers – and growing old disgracefully

The two winning friends talk about their BBC race across the whole of Canada, and tell us: “It’s never too late to do something crazy!”

Best friends Cathie and Tricia didn’t just win the cash prize in the BBC One series Race Across the World, they won our hearts too as they travelled thousands of miles across Canada.

Tricia signed herself and Cathie up for the challenge because a medical condition means she’s losing her sight and will soon be blind. Her eyes on the journey belonged to Cathie, her best friend.

We saw them get lost for hours at the start line, fall in love with buffalo, and after eight weeks beat all the other teams to the finish line and claim the prize money. But throughout all the highs and lows, their friendship stayed solid.

Two women in front of a bay in a cityCredit: BBC
Best friends Tricia and Cathie appear on Race Across the World, 9pm, Wednesdays on BBC One

The two women celebrated at the finish line. Trisha says: “It is just crazy madness but amazing, absolutely amazing. We’ve raced across the whole of Canada, with sod-all budget, eaten cream cheese and crackers, got lost in Stanley Park and we’ve come first. It doesn’t matter how old you are, whether you are male or female, 36 or 86, if you’ve got the gumph, do it!”

The two women were one of the five teams taking part in series three of Race Across the World. This year, the popular BBC series saw the contestants go coast to coast across Canada, from Vancouver in the west to St John’s in the east – zigzagging across the country’s six time zones, covering a total distance of almost 10,000 miles.

The teams of two were given just £3,000 to cover all living costs and travel expenses – and they weren’t allowed credit cards. Nor were they allowed to access the internet to get any tips on how to make the journey. They raced from checkpoint to checkpoint, using public transport, hitchhiking, or any other form of transport they could find – although plane travel was banned.

The two friends were first to the finish line and claimed the prize of £20,000.

Tricia, 48, and Cathie, 49, didn’t have the best beginning when they got lost at the start line in Stanley Park, British Columbia. But they soon stormed into the lead, and they won more and more hearts over the eight episodes.

Two women asking for directions from a car driverCredit: BBC
Cathie and Tricia asking for directions out of the park at the start line

Tricia is the taller and seemingly more confident of the two, but is losing her sight – she has a rare form of uveitis that brings on sight loss. Cathie is the level-headed organiser, who relies on Tricia to approach complete strangers to ask for a lift when they are hitchhiking.

When Exceptional met up with them on a video chat, they were just as much fun to be with as they are on the series.

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“Taking five hours to get out of Stanley Park is something that still lives on in my nightmares,” exclaims Tricia.

“You’ve got PTSD over that, haven’t you?” Cathie giggles.

Childhood friends

They laugh together a lot and know each other inside out – they have been friends since they were 13.

“I moved to Aberystwyth in Wales with my family and I met Trish on my very first day at school,” remembers Cathie. “I had been bullied before and was terrified on that first day. Then I met Trish and that all changed. She was this free spirit and a bit of a rebel – very different to me.”

“We lived in a really small place where everyone knew everyone else,” interrupts Tricia. “When Cathie turned up at school it was really exciting, and I wanted to get to know her. She’s really into procedures and policy, everything is black and white to her. I loved that, and we became friends.”

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The two were close throughout school, but lost touch when they were 18 and Tricia went off to college and  Cathie went to university. They found each other again, about 15 years ago, through the website Friends Reunited.

A collage of photos of two women contests of Race Across the World.Credit: BBC
Some of the photos of the two friends taken over the years

Both were already having their own adventures. Tricia had moved to Devon and loved marathon walks; and Cathie, by then married and with two children, would get out hiking with her dad.

It was Tricia who first suggested they do a Moonwalk together. That led to many more joint challenges, including a Shine Night Walk, the Inca Trail and walking from London to Brighton with Cathie’s dad.

“Ooh, and then there were those games on the inflatables with all those lovely young men dressed as gladiators trying to stop you completing the course,” says Tricia, and the pair dissolve into giggles again.

“We’re all about having fun and just making the most out of life,” adds Cathie.

A woman gazing across a frozen lake
Cathie enjoying a peaceful moment at Jade City during their Race Across the World

Applying for Race Across the World

The two women won everyone’s hearts on the television series as they supported each other, coped with menopause symptoms and talked about being “invisible” older women.

So why did they decide to apply?

“That was me,” admits Tricia. “I’m losing my sight and eventually I won’t have any. So I want to have every experience I can before I lose my vision. I don’t just want to be ‘Sight loss Trish’. I really needed to do it with Cathie, so I applied without telling her and then had to convince her to do a one-minute interview for it.”

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“I hadn’t seen Race Across the World, so I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for,” laughs Cathie, a pharmacy owner from South Wales. “Originally, I agreed just to help Trish, but then I thought this really could be an incredible experience. My children have left home now and this would be something for me – but even better, I would be doing it with my best mate. We were so lucky that we got selected.”

What it’s like to take part in Race Across the World

One of the highlights for them both was Jade City, a settlement in northwestern British Columbia, where they found work dismantling a shack at a farm.

Cathie says: “That’s where I walked down to the lake and took a few minutes to breathe. I wanted to take it all in and memorise it because it was so special.”

Tricia agrees: “It was absolutely phenomenal. It was so peaceful and quiet, and we sat there knowing how lucky we were to be there.

They admit their friendship and endurance were tested during the race.

“The key to our friendship is that when one of us is struggling, the other one will be there to help and support them or laugh at them, depending on what the situation is,” says Cathie.

“We learnt that it’s mind over matter and that if we pushed ourselves, we could achieve more than we thought we could. We already knew each other instinctively, and the race cemented our friendship.”

The two faced additional challenges because of Tricia’s failing vision – including the time when they were on their way to the checkpoint at the end of episode one, and had to do a 2km (1.2 miles) dash along the beach.

Cathie says: “It was physically challenging and for Trish, with her limited vision, it was potentially dangerous because it was easy for her to trip and fall on an uneven surface. We worked together as a team, because that is what friendship is about.”

A woman comforting another womanCredit: BBC
Their friendship meant they could help each other during the toughest times

Why friendship is so important to Cathie and Tricia

It’s their friendship that is most important to both of them.

“Friendships are so important as you get older,” says Cathie. “Friends are the family you get to choose. You may have fewer friends, but with the ones you have, there’s a greater quality to the time you spend with them.”

“Cathie is like the tonic to my gin,” adds Tricia. “As we get older, we realise friendships need to be nurtured and looked after. You know the ones that are really important, the ones you put time into. It’s so important to keep those who are important to you close to you too.”

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Watching them together, you can see that their friendship has survived their Canadian adventure.

Their advice if you want to Race Across the World

Applications have now closed for series four of Race Across the World.

But what is their advice for anyone thinking about having a go?

“Do it,” says Cathie. “Then keep your fingers crossed that you get selected because it is absolutely incredible. But don’t try to be something you’re not, because if you do and you get on there, you will soon be found out. Just enjoy it.”

They also have some advice on what any potential racer should take with them.

“We were told to take a notepad and pen and it came in really handy,” says Tricia. “Also we wrote a diary every day and it was brilliant because now we can look back on it and remember everything that happened.

“But for me, the most important thing is spare knickers. Cathie had loads of spare knickers in her rucksack but I didn’t pack enough, so definitely knickers and more knickers.”

Two women in an all terrain vehicleCredit: BBC
Tricia and Cathie had countless adventures on their Race Across the World

Tricia and Cathie’s next adventure

The two are already looking forward to their next challenge – they are taking part in a nine-day trek along the Great Wall of China, in October.

“We’ll keep doing these adventures for as long as we can,” says Cathie. “It’s never too late to do something like this. If you maintain a good level of fitness and a good level of mobility, then you’re never too old to try something new and enjoy life disgracefully!”

Tricia agrees, saying: “We are growing old disgracefully and when we can’t get out any more, we can sit there together and reminisce about the buffalo we met, the lake we sat beside or the time I was terrified about going on a cable car.

“Those are memories we’ve made together as best friends, and nothing can take those away from us. We’ll always be able to look back on those moments and for us that is the best prize of all.”

Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her

Updated:

Phillipa Cherryson is Saga Exceptional’s Fitness Passions Channel Editor. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV.

Her passion is outdoor fitness. She’s an Ordnance Survey Champion; she organises walks, campouts and instructional activity days for South Wales members of online community the Adventure Queens; she’s vice chair of the Brecon Beacons National Park Local Access Forum and her partner is a long-serving member of the local mountain rescue team.

She hated sports at school and only started getting the fitness bug when she turned 50. Now she loves trail running, mountain walks, e-biking, climbing, surfing, paddleboarding and horse riding. She also loves cake.

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